The actor Kevin Hart would you like to know that he is done apologizing for his homophobia, even though his apologies have not amounted to much—numerically or substantively—in the first place.
Later tonight he will appear on CBS’ Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and hopefully Colbert will grill him more properly than other hosts have on his views, past and present.
In yet another bizarre TV appearance on Good Morning America on Wednesday, being interviewed by yet another friend (Michael Strahan) rather than objective non-celebrity-identified journalist, Hart was given ample opportunity to not just say sorry but sound like he meant it.
Guess what. He didn’t. He again said he would not be hosting the Oscars, and, ta-da, Hart has a new PR master plan: he’s just done with this homophobia accusation and apology thing, and he wants you to know that. Even when offered the chance to say something to LGBTQ youth or their parents, Hart—whose ego is certainly undented by recent events—chose to make himself the victim, as he consistently does.
Over the last few weeks and in his GMA appearance, Hart offered a revealing study in how LGBT people so often experience homophobia and transphobia: it is something all too often dismissed, derided; something that is their problem, nothing to see here.
If we have questions about Hart’s past homophobic ‘jokes’ (you know, like the one about assaulting your gay kid), tweets, and the nature of his apology, guess what: that’s on us. His critics are immediately relegated to haters, trolls. He’s too busy. He’s got other stuff to be getting on with.
Hart’s demeanor during GMA was of a celebrity keen to prevent any further negative publicity, to stifle questions and gaslight those he targeted with his lame, disgusting jokes in the first place, not somebody genuinely regretful about what they said in the past and keen to make an active amends.
Kevin Hart, as he occasionally refers to himself, isn’t interested in any of it. Kevin Hart wants to get back to making movies and making lots of money.
Hart still claims to have apologized years ago, which he did not. His apology tour—business-like, rather than heartfelt—truly began on Ellen DeGeneres’ show, then Twitter, and then his podcast, where he spoke about himself in the third person, saying, “Kevin Hart apologizes for his remarks that hurt members of the LGBTQ community.”
In this flurry of recent apologizing, note that Hart isn’t that sorry about what he said, nor has he shown any understanding of why what he said was so bad. He’s apologizing to others if they were upset by it. I’m unclear about what he’s learned after this mess, but it seems at best that his take-home is that he should keep his homophobia quiet, rather than voice it on stage or on Twitter.
That’s not really dealing with your prejudice. Neither is making your prejudice your victims’ problem. Repeating “I apologize” screams a desperate crisis management plan, the very least and most disingenuous that you can do, rather than embracing personal fault and responsibility.
“It’s not my dream to be an ally” of LGBT people, he said on his podcast recently. That’s the clearest and most revealing thing Hart has said in the last week.
Hart had been responding to CNN’s Don Lemon, who had criticized him in an excellent TV address, then had an extensive conversation with him which Lemon spoke about on his January 7 show.
Hart is not a victim, Lemon said, but in holding Hart to account the LGBTQ community shouldn’t be “bullies.” What does that mean? That we should somehow more politely parse the nonsense Hart has spoken throughout this?
Bullies have power. Hart and the Hollywood machine behind him has power. DeGeneres has power. Lemon has power. The only power LGBTQ critics of Kevin Hart have is one of a collective voice in print and online, which they have every right to exercise. If those critics hadn’t used those voices in the first place, Lemon wouldn’t have devoted two segments of his show to Hart’s homophobia. This isn't bullying, but rather, as Lemon said, holding Hart to account.
When Strahan, who did a hugely better job of pushing Hart on what on earth he was talking about than DeGeneres had, asked if he understood why people were not buying his apology, Hart said: “I say I’m done with it, it gets no more energy from me. That’s why I said [it’s] the last time I’m addressing this, there’s no more conversation about it. Literally, I’m over that. I’m over the moment. I’m about today. So, if it’s accepted great, if it’s not that’s nothing I can control. Some things are left out of your hands. I’m done with it. I’m over it. That’s where I personally am.”
And that is why a lot of people are not buying Kevin Hart’s apologies, because they are transparently unfelt. The word salad he offers conveys his impatience to get back to being adored by his fans and earning lots of money.
Strahan asked, if Hart’s views on LGBTQ people had evolved, how had they evolved.
“I have explained how,” said Hart. “I evolved which makes me say [he grinned], I’m over it.”
So, a total non-explanation of personal evolution.
“I’m not saying how I changed any more,” Hart said.
He never said how he changed in the first place.
“I’m not saying what I’ve done and what the new me is. I’m not giving no more explanation of who I am. I’ve done it, I’ve done it several times. I’ve tweeted it, talked about it, went on Ellen, said it on my radio show. I’m just done. You have to come to a point where you know that you’ve given all you possibly can and if that’s received, great. We’ve achieved something. If not, there’s nothing I can do. So, I do this now.”
He shrugged a ‘what else can I do’ shrug at Strahan, and mugged his face. For Hart, this is all about him, not about anything he said, or homophobia, or making proper recompense.
Later Wednesday, Hart told Andy Cohen on Cohen's Sirius XM show that again he was done apologizing, and that he had changed his attitude ten years ago after seeing responses to his homophobic jokes. He said “we were all on the same page” when it came to equality. “You can’t fake being a good person. Either you are or you aren’t,” Hart added.
It may be true that Hart is not homophobic now. But what explains his continued resistance to engage with his past words and what evolution he has gone through?
Strahan asked Hart what would he say to a parent of a gay child or an LGBTQ young person. Did he have an understanding of this?
Here, Hart could have said something warm and direct about acceptance; that was the gift of a ball Strahan was trying to place in his palms.
Instead, Hart said, “I have an understanding. I’ve addressed it, and I’ve said everything I can possibly say. So, I’m over it.”
Then he laughed.
“You will not hear me say anything else about it,” he repeated. “I’ve done all that I can do. So, that was done in the hope that people can hear and understand how heartfelt and authentic it was. If you didn’t, then I don’t know what to tell you or do. I don’t know what you’re looking for. So, I’m over it.”
Hart doesn’t seem to get that what people are “looking for” is a trace of understanding about why his past words were so bad, and if and how he has changed his attitudes. Note: for Hart, this is all about him, and he is the victim.
Even Strahan—remember, a friend—was disbelieving at Hart’s egotistical blundering, and asked him to clarify it.
“Here’s what I’m trying to say: I’m over it,” Hart said. He laughed again. There was laughter off camera. There was, chillingly, nothing funny about any of it.
“I’m done with it. I’m talking about today. I’m talking about me today and the energy I have and what I can do on a daily basis.”
That standard celebrity blah usually comes from life coaches, PRs, or therapists, or an unholy trinity of all of the above. Move it forward, is Hart’s new mantra. “I put out good energy, I inspire, I motivate. I’m a good person. I love the love. If you don’t see that, then that means that it’s a problem with you. If you can’t realize that, then that means it’s you. I have nothing else to prove or do. Nothing else.”
Again, Kevin Hart wants you to know: if you have a problem with his homophobia, or the nature of these empty apologies, then it’s your fault.
Strahan tried once again to help Hart out, repeating his question: What would Hart’s message be to a parent of an LGBTQ child, or an LGBTQ kid?
“Here’s what you can say,” said Hart, suddenly asking Strahan if he was a “monster.”
No, said Strahan.
Hart said it was safe to say Strahan had “good energy” and was a loving person. Why would Hart assume anything different?
“Why do you have to prove that you’re a loving individual? You know who you are, people close to you know who you are. You shouldn’t have to prove that, you shouldn’t have to justify that. That’s the position I am in. I shouldn’t have to prove who I am, I shouldn’t have to prove the levels of love I am capable of giving.
“If anybody out there wants to believe that Kevin Hart is that much of a monster, that he wouldn’t love somebody because of their choice in life, then all power to ‘em. You feel and choose to think how you think. I’m not addressing it. I’m not over-delivering and over-proving myself because no matter what you do, it may still not be received. And you’ll find yourself in a position where you go, ‘Well, what else do you want? You want blood? You want my arms?”
Again, Hart spoke about himself in the third person, and made himself the victim. He has made his critics into a mob that wants to hurt him. They are not. They are just asking for an explanation of his words and beliefs.
Hart said he had “tons” of great energy, and again incorrectly claimed to have apologized for his past words before Ellen.
The backlash to that interview showed the poor-me Hart that “there is no ending to it. If you keep feeding this energy then it’s going to grow. You’re not getting no more of my energy from it. I’m not giving no more. So, I’m not shutting down the questions… but I want everybody to know, I’m done with it. It’s a choice I’ve personally made to say I’m not addressing it any more. That’s not from an angry place, just from place of: it’s never going to really end. I’m done with it. So if people choose to continue to let it grow, then do what you’ve got to do.”
There are so many contradictions here. Shutting down questions on the topic is precisely what Hart and his representatives hope to do, as he states in the sentences following that absurd contention. They are desperate to be free of the questions. Hollywood has a famously selective memory. Maybe that will work. What would work more effectively is if Hart simply answered the questions asked of him, and quit deploying masses of verbal dry ice.
Hart even joked with Strahan at how good he had been dodging his questions. This is just a PR game to him, nothing else.
No, he would not be hosting the Oscars this year, Hart said. Time had run out on that prospect. He was too much of a perfectionist, and needed to make sure such a show was “a great representation of me and my talent.”
“The public” had made this a conversation, and he had removed himself from the conversation, Hart said. The Oscars were not part of God’s plan, he added. Everything was “pre-determined” by God. He wasn’t “worried,” “shaken,” or “upset,” and would “learn,” “educate,” and “grow” from what had happened.
How exactly, remains a mystery, and Strahan didn't ask.
“I’m so good with me,” Hart said twice. “That’s not a cocky statement.”
Yes, it is.
“That just means I’m happy with me because I know the man that I now am,” said Hart. “That being said, I don’t have to prove that to anybody. I’m that comfortable in that understanding of my… level of maturity. So for those that get that, thank God you do, and for those that don’t, hopefully you will in the future. And if you don’t, I guess it wasn’t meant for us to have a friendly relationship. I guess we’re not in each other’s lives. It’s not going to sway me either way. I don’t get off on the verdict of others and how they feel. I don’t live my life for others. I live for me and mine. Those are the people who know me, who love me, and who know my heart.”
Kevin Hart, like many a celebrity, is about Kevin Hart. If he is honest about anything in these interviews it has been showcasing his vanity and all-consuming self-interest. Nothing must be allowed to divert him from his big-screen conquering mission. Anything critical said about him is to be dismissed. His critics are his enemies. He will only listen to those who supply adulation and affirmation. Apologizing stands for weakness and dilution of a rigorously built brand.
Again, Hart boasted to Strahan he had dodged his questions.
This interview was a game to Hart, this whole controversy is an inconvenience he will indulge no longer, banking on his fans’ support and Hollywood’s eye on whatever money he generates. (He came back later in GMA to sell his new movie.)
“You didn’t swerve at all,” said Strahan. You’re gonna watch this back and realize you didn’t swerve at all.”
In a way Strahan is right. Kevin Hart, as he likes to refer to himself, showed himself for exactly who he is. Hollywood may choose to reward that person. But yes, his critics will continue to ask the questions for as long as he acts offended for being asked them, instead of maturely and openly addressing them. (Interviewers and outlets, please, if you are offered a Kevin Hart interview with a stipulation not to ask about the controversy, turn the interview down.)
Hart’s denial and disavowal of homophobia, depressing as it has been to watch, is also an all-too reflective symbol as to how wider society has historically chosen not to confront its own homophobia and transphobia. And that is why generations of LGBT people will continue to protest until it does, despite being attacked for doing so.
LGBT people criticizing Kevin Hart don’t come with the intent or desire to destroy a career as he seems to imagine. They come with a simpler question: “Do you not get this? Do you not understand what you’re saying and how dangerous and awful it is?”
The frustration is in his dismissiveness. The anger is because over and over again, LGBT people have experienced homophobia, and the impact of homophobia, and how wider society around them chooses to ignore it, and sometimes, through discriminatory laws and statutes (and stupid jokes on TV), actively exacerbates it.
Kevin Hart may be over “it.” LGBT people absolutely, sadly, aren’t.